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While there is no separate data on the number of female subscribers in the country, according to a recent Lirneasia Teleuse Survey (a regional ICT policy and regulation think tank), mobile phone ownership is far lower among females than males in South Asia.
Statistical analysis shows that gender has a significant impact on mobile phone adoption at the bottom of the pyramid in Bangladesh, Pakistan and India. Consequently, in this segment, 12 males have access to mobile phones in comparison to five females.
Since the ownership of mobile phones is lower among females than males, women are less likely to have access to the phones unless the government intervenes through policies such as subsidies or free-phone programmes.
What puzzles us is the policy recommendation that handsets be subsidized or given free.
If anyone looks at our research they will find that the male-female gap has been closed in the Philippines, Thailand and Sri Lanka, and that the gap has narrowed in the countries referred to. Does this not suggest that time will close the gap?
Why jump to the conclusion that subsidies are required? The normal lifetime of a mobile is 3 years. Even if mobiles were given free, will the government continue to provide free phones when the old ones die? Will the women sell the phones? And, most importantly, where will the money for subsidy come from? General taxation? Mobile levies?